for the single mothers.

July 16, 2011

sometimes the washing machine is broken and the pipes in the basement have decided to rain shitty water on the dirty clothes and who knows what else and the reality is that those clothes must get washed and dried by hand or we will have a Public Health Situation on our hands, or the car is doing that thing again where the engine just turns off and we’re in the middle of traffic and i remember why we went car-free for so long but the reality is that with my two kids and my girlfriend’s three kids and my girlfriend’s busy job and my sometimes desperate scramble for money anywhere i can find it, two single mothers sometimes need a car. even if one of them is opposed to cars and car culture and breathing exhaust (or making others breathe it) and a frenetic lifestyle…

sometimes other mothers laugh and say they would love the break from their kids and joint custody sounds about right to them but the reality is that even two days a week can be too much when you aren’t asking for it and it doesn’t come at the time that works for you or your kids and maybe you need childcare some other time and there’s this event you want to take your son to on the weekend but those are the two days a week the Powers-that-Be have you on record as agreeing to, and you wouldn’t want to seem uncooperative, now would you? no one likes an uncooperative single mother.

sometimes your friends see those two days a week (or one, or three, or a weekend a month, or whatever), and they say “wow, s/he is so involved, you are so lucky, isn’t it wonderful that he pays for that class, isn’t it wonderful that she took her to the park or that birthday party” and nobody says “oh, wow, you are so involved, yr ex is so lucky to know the kids are taken care of, you pay for all the basic needs and then some, isn’t it wonderful you go to the park so much and play seven rounds of chess and go to every birthday party humanly possible, even the ones at Flashing-Lights-Loud-Sounds-and-Animatronic-Monster-Animals-Pizzeria” because that’s just what you do. you are the single mother.

on the rare occasions someone does try to valorize you, to praise you, there will be a voice raised to remind everyone that you get help, “support,” breaks… whatever it is. the speaker doesn’t know: it could be $9.35 or it could be $0 or a trip to court and you’d better pay for and bring your own lawyer. never mind that if a storm comes and your roof caves in you handle it alone for your kids. never mind that if the car breaks down and your kid has school/a doctor’s appointment/a homeschooling playgroup it is you who figures out how to get there or how to break the news… on the weekend it is rarely time to say “i’m sorry, we can’t make it because of this problem or we can’t buy that because of a lack of money or our values around consumption.” weekends are for leisure and during the week shopping has been done, for necessities and for presents.

behind many a stand-up-guy there is a single mother being told to sit down or sitting herself down in order to assemble dollhouse furniture for $1 a perfectly completed piece. working from home means you are so lucky! you set your own hours, and there are a lot of them.

you will do what it takes because that is what you do, and sometimes people will see what you were willing to do and they will judge you from the comfort of their almost-totally-owned townhome with the two kids and the two parents and maybe a dog whose shit no one wants to pick up, but just keep on keeping on, girl… it’s just what you do.


grumbling on hawthorne

March 28, 2011

every time i’m on hawthorne (a weird sort-of-pseudo-hippie-in-that-way-where-the-hippies-there-pretend-the-whole-place-is-hippie (like Mendocino County!) “destination neighborhood”/shopping district in southeast portland), i look at all the one and two story buildings and grumble. so many people driving to this neighborhood, searching for parking, lots of them saying wouldn’t it be nice if they could afford to live there and walk around, and yet there aren’t apartments above all the shops. and when i do see a three or four story building (which i’m sure all the neighbors complained about), i grumble, too, thinking of how often those kinds of projects benefit only the rich and middle class who then live in condos on these streets and own a car. or two. and make everything worse.

yes, i grumble a lot on hawthorne!

and yet… i’m fascinated by the potential there and in every neighborhood, really. i like to look at the buildings and imagine beautiful (at least partially income restricted) additions to them, at least some of them topped with gardens or playgrounds or both. or maybe even a rooftop restaurant or two with gardens surrounding it. i like to look down the side streets and imagine them emptied of cars (or at least most cars) and think about how the street could be narrowed, and what people (you know, those fleshy mostly hairless creatures who breathe and actually LIVE in cities, unlike cars which are neither alive nor have the potential to be) might do with the extra space and how many more people would let their children out to play if they didn’t have to worry about people zooming through their neighborhood. and once there is a critical mass of children set free to play outside, nothing can hold back the floodgates as people spend more and more time interacting with each other and the children form a little tribe. i have seen it on my street, even (we lucked into neighbors who let their kids knock on our door and say “can you come out and play?” almost every day).

and i long for that kind of change. i love city life for social reasons, and because i hate being in cars and contributing to car culture and rural life seems so tied to that in this era (unless you are willing to REALLY live a historically and globally accurate rural life, which involves a lot of staying home or in your smaller community). and i think people make beautiful buildings and beautiful gardens. and i see so much more potential, “even” here in supposed eco-city Portland, OR. there is so much change to be made to make this city livable for all it’s residents (human and otherwise).

i dream of it and i want to live in it. i want my children to grow up in it.